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The Pilot Knob/Oheyawahi story showcases a quite successful outcome for a contested Native American sacred site in a coveted urban location. It was valuable to see how the toothless administrative procedures we have learned about are actually capable of serving their purpose by slowing down legislation. Without being required to complete an Environmental Assessment Worksheet, the building project likely would have succeeded, but the public comment portion of the worksheet opened the door for resistance that eventually brought the project down. On the note of legislation, it was also valuable to look at the EAW and National Resource Management Plan for the site. I was particularly lucky to have the opportunity to visit and learn about Pilot Knob during our course and connect what I saw in the documents with my personal experiences.
The main disappointment of researching a successful preservation is that the Native communities and activist groups have relatively little ongoing interest in educating the public about the battle for the sacred site because their energy is better used elsewhere. The Pilot Knob Preservation Association, for example, last wrote an update on the site in 2011.
The local religious communities that sided with the Dakota during the process also do not have much information or resources to offer. The Mendota Heights St. Peter’s Catholic Church had no information online, and directed me to the Minnesota Historical Society when I called. The Beth Jacob Congregation had no information online. When I called, they said that they would call me back if a member had information for me, but I am doubting that I will receive a response at this point.
One other point that was disappointing but not entirely unexpected was the lack of acknowledgment of many groups of the importance of the site to the indigenous communities. The PKPA was very respectful of the claims of the Dakota, and their advocacy played into the ultimate plan for the site. However, many historical societies and preservation groups saw it strictly from the lens of European historical significance and nature conservation. The rationale for preserving Pilot Knob and its treatment as a protected open space is primarily based on these perspectives, which limits the power of future Native claims to the land.